Who discovered tuberculosis

Who discovered tuberculosis – Formerly called phthisis, which means “wasting” Tuberculosis has been known since antiquity Hippocrates already described the different forms in the fifth century BCE.

Folder created in collaboration with Camille Locht, microbiologist and director of the Centre Infection and Immunity of Lille (Inserm Unit 1019) at the Pasteur Institute in Lille

It was not until 1882 that the causative agent of the disease is identified by the German physician Robert Koch: This is a tubercle bacillus of the family of mycobacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis , but is often referred to by the name of its discoverer, the TB bacillus.

At the end of the twentieth century, it was thought that the epidemic was under control in the Northern Hemisphere. But the development of AIDS, which increases the risk of infection and multiplication of resistant strains of TB treatment are a public health issue of our century, and it worldwide.

 90% of silent tuberculosis

is estimated that 90% of people infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis do not develop TB: they are asymptomatic. But that does not mean they will be spared. Indeed, the bacillus can remain “dormant” for many years and wake up to develop the infection during the weakening of the wearer immune system (HIV, chemotherapy, etc..). The current test for skin testing (Mantoux test) does not identify with certainty a healthy carrier because it sometimes produces false negatives and false positives and does not distinguish patients vaccinated with BCG from those infected.

4000 genes for Bacillus

In 1998, the Institut Pasteur (France) and the Sanger Center (UK) have sequenced the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It has 4,411,529 base pairs and approximately 4,000 genes, a genome rather “rich” to the bacterial world. Since then, microbiologists worldwide scrutinize every element of tuberculosis DNA. It is indeed likely that the slow growth of the bacterium’s ability to latency and reactivation and its more or less strong resistance to treatment are all features included in the bacterial genome. An international consortium including including teams from the Institut Pasteur, CNRS and University of Toulouse in 2010 has identified ten virulence genes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, whose inactivation would decrease the aggressiveness of microbe.


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